My ghost of Christmas past would bring a Tom and Jerry sweatsuit, a big yellow bag which contained the gifts the whole family, a baked fillet of salmon and a spinach flan. If I had to identify in every Christmas past, flipping through my memories album, an element that is always present, that tastes of home and that is repeated every 25th December, I would choose the spinach flan.
It is reassuring and cosy in its creaminess, intriguing thanks to the crunchy crust, the most desired bit at the table. The spinach flan is a side dish that doesn’t steal the scene to the main course, but accompanies it, dressing whatever it is on its Sunday best.
I remember those Christmases past: Mum and Aunt brought to the table a never ending lunch made of appetizers, two starters, a nice fillet of baked salmon and then a generous spoonful of spinach flan. Margherita, the almost-sister-cousin with whom I grew up, and I waited impatiently for that green and creamy spoonful of deliciousness, much more greedy of that than of the classic pandoro or panettone.
The height of success of the spinach flan was during the evening at home in your pajamas, only the four of us. We used to talk about the day watching a Christmas movie and having a “light” dinner with the leftovers. At that time I didn’t even need a dish: Mum put me in front of the mould with the last portion of the spinach flan and I licked the mould clean patiently, savoring the creamy center and the crispy and golden brown crust.
The spinach flan can be an ’80s style dish, perhaps a reflection of my Christmases past, but this year it has the right to enter into the game of the Christmas present.
- 1, 5 kg of fresh spinach
- 50 g of butter
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 450 ml of whole milk
- grated nutmeg
- 2 free range eggs
- 4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
- butter and breadcrumbs for the mould
Cook the washed spinach in boiling water until soft: they will cook for about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Prepare the bechamel sauce by melting 50 g of butter in a saucepan: add the flour and mix quickly with a whisk or a fork, making it toast well. Add the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps. When it has thickened, after about 5 minutes, season with salt and add a generous pinch of grated nutmeg.
Blend the well squeezed spinach and mix with the bechamel sauce, 2 free range eggs, the grated Parmesan, a good pinch of grated nutmeg and salt, if necessary.
Butter and dust with breadcrumbs a rectangular cake mould, fill with the spinach and sprinkle the surface with the breadcrumbs and a few knobs of butter.
Bake the flan in the oven for 30 minutes, than grill it for 5 more minutes to brown the surface.